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Stetson Kennedy

By 2011.08.28 tags: , , , , , . 2 Comments»
Writer Zora Neale Hurston sings and dances with children in Eatonville, Fla., June 1935.
Writer Zora Neale Hurston sings and dances with children in Eatonville, Fla., June 1935. Photo: Alan Lomax/American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

William Stetson Kennedy
October 5 1916 — August 27 2011
(Website | Wikipedia)

In 2001 I stopped by Stetson’s house, on a beautiful marshland near Jacksonville, Florida. We talked about his 1939-40 recording expedition, accompanied by Zora Neale Hurston, documenting the songs and stories of Florida. That interview and those recordings become the NPR story “The Sound of 1930s Florida Folk Life” (22:00 mp3):

The Klan Unmasked is Stetson’s story of infiltrating and undermining the KKK. He tell it in this next clip, “Nazi-minded Klansmen” (4:26 mp3):

His good friend Woody Guthrie wrote a song about him, “Stetson Kennedy.” lyrics: Woody Gurthrie; music: Billy Bragg & Wilco, from Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (2:40 mp3):

I done spent my last three cents
Mailing my letter to the President
Didn’t make a show, I didn’t make a dent
So I’m swinging over to this independent gent

Stetson Kennedy
Writing his name in
Stetson Kennedy
Writing his name in

I can’t win out to save my soul
Long as Smathers-Dupont’s got me in the hole
Them war profit boys are squawking and balking
That’s what’s got me out here walking and talking

Knocking on doors and windows
Wake up and run down election morning
And scribble in Stetson Kennedy
I ain’t the world’s best writer, ain’t the world’s best speller
But when I believe in something I’m the loudest yeller
If we fix it so you can’t make no money on war
Well we’ll all forget what we was killing folks for

We’ll find us a peace job equal and free
We’ll dump Smathers-Dupont in a salty sea
Well, this makes Stetson Kennedy the man for me

Stetson Kennedy on his porch, Jacksonville FL USA

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2 comments | Write comment

It was a thrill transcribing this man’s words for HV. A most remarkable life!

Comment added by victoria golding on 08.29.11

thanks for allowing me to hear my uncle’s voice again. He was a true pioneer and I am honored to be related to him.

Comment added by george kennedy on 08.29.11



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